CNRS Moves Nanotech Debate From The Lab To The Bar (but doesn’t offer to buy a round)

Wading into the debate over the social and ethical implications of nanotechnologies comes the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) with their new recommendations.

Unfortunately the report doesn’t contain any fresh thinking or any new Gallic philosphical twist, rather it calls for more discussion and dialogue, with a number of suggestions to keep both professional and bar room philosophers happy.

The eight key recommendations (see below) range from things that have been going on for years at a European level (number 1) to the suggestion that researchers should spend more time in the bar and less in the lab (number 4).

1. Launch a debate among all stakeholders interested by the development of a research programme: scientists, policy makers and the public.

2. Educate scientists on the ethics of their research at several levels of their careers.

3. Create mini guides on ethics for researchers based on recent studies.

4. Open ‘ethics spaces’ in research centres, where researchers, engineers and technicians can engage in debate with researchers from the human and social sciences.

5. Stimulate the interest of humanities and social scientists in nanosciences and nanotechnologies.

6a. Set up procedures in case of conflicts of interests with industry;

6b. Ensure transparency with regards to sources of funding and, if possible, of the results of joint projects between the CNRS and industry.

7. In public relations:

– present the expected opportunities of nanosciences and nanotechnologies without hiding the potential risks;

– highlight the benefits to society, the reasons for prioritising nanosciences and, if possible, not limit these to economic and industrial benefits only;

– dare to take into account the long term implications of nanosciences.

8. Set up bodies where dialogue and citizen debates can take place at local, national, European and international level.

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